70 Useful Adjectives To Describe Personality (Positive & Negative)
Personality adjectives describe the positive and negative aspects of someone’s personality. Words like generous, enthusiastic, meticulous and outgoing are positive adjectives. Words like indecisive, tactless, fussy and grumpy are negative adjectives.
In this study guide, you will learn 70 personality adjectives in English. We have divided these into lists of positive and negative personality adjectives, with definitions for each one. We have also given you examples to show how to use the adjectives in sentences. Check out the exercises at the end to test your understanding!
We all have different personalities! Each person has a combination of personality ‘traits’ – different parts (or aspects) of our personality. In English, there are a huge number of positive and negative personality adjectives, which we can use to describe the people around us.
This article will cover the most common positive and negative adjectives in English. We will also look at how to use personality adjectives in a sentence, adjectives with similar meanings and how to make negative forms using prefixes.
Personality adjectives function in exactly the same way as other adjectives in a sentence. We use them with the verb ‘to be’, for example:
He is intelligent. She is confident.
As with other adjectives, we can modify personality adjectives with adverbs such as quite, really, very, a bit, for example:
She is a bit tactless. He is really selfish.
As with other adjectives, we can use more than one at a time, separated by commas, e.g. ‘He is a sociable, friendly and generous man’. Think of your reports from school; were you ‘hard-working, determined and enthusiastic’ or ‘lazy, moody and stubborn’?
Confusing adjective meanings (mistakes to avoid!)
1. False friends
A false friend is a word that can be confused with a word in another language because it looks similar, but it actually has a different meaning. The word sympathetic looks very similar to the word meaning ‘nice’ in some European languages. In English, sympathetic means understanding of another person’s problems. It does not mean the person is nice (although they may be!).
The English word sensible is also a false friend for speakers of some European languages. A sensible person is logical or makes reasonable decisions, for example: ‘Tim seems quite sensible. He doesn’t mess around with the other kids in the playground’. Sensible does not refer to how someone feels, however the word sensitive means someone who is aware of other people’s feelings or can be easily hurt emotionally.
2. Adjectives with similar meanings
Some personality adjectives have similar meanings. The words sociable, chatty and outgoing have a very similar meaning. We can say: ‘Sue is always talking to people. She is a sociable, outgoing person. She is very chatty.’
The words arrogant, big-headed and pretentious have a similar meaning. They all describe a person who has a very high opinion of themselves. For example: ‘I think he is quite an arrogant guy. He is always showing off about what a good footballer he is. He is big-headed’.
Nasty and unpleasant have a similar meaning. Both suggest a negative attitude to other people. For example: ‘She can be really nasty to her little sister sometimes. She won’t let her play with her toys and she tries to get her into trouble. She is quite unpleasant.’ Cruel has a stronger meaning than nasty.
3. Adjectives with opposite meanings
Optimistic and pessimistic are direct opposites. An optimistic person has a generally positive outlook on life and believes that things will go well. A pessimistic person tends to have a negative view of life.
A generous person is kind and may enjoy giving gifts or money to another person. Someone who is mean does not spend their money in this way.
Someone who is big-headed likes to show off about how good they are, but a modest person is the opposite. A modest person does not show off to other people about their achievements.
Someone who is polite speaks in a respectful way to other people. A rude person is the opposite; he or she may shout or say things that upset others. Rude and impolite have a similar meaning.
See below to find out how to form negative adjectives using prefixes.
4. Using prefixes to form negative adjectives
Some positive personality adjectives can be made into a negative word by adding the prefixes un-, dis-, in-, im- or ir-. A few adjectives only exist in the negative form, for example insecure (the opposite would be confident, not secure!).
Adjectives ending in ‘-ful’ become ‘-less’ in the negative form. For example: careful/careless.
The prefix ‘over-’ means ‘too much’. It can be used to form negative personality adjectives, such as over-protective, and over-confident, over-sensitive.
The prefix ‘under-’ suggests not enough. This prefix can be used with a few personality adjectives, for example under-confident.
The following adjectives from the ‘positive’ list can be made into negative adjectives by adding a prefix.
A few adjectives from our list have meanings that may be confusing. The word thoughtful means someone who thinks of others and is considerate to them. It is not connected with intelligence. The opposite word is thoughtless – someone whose actions show they do not think of others. For example: ‘Sue is very thoughtful. She always visits her elderly neighbour to check he is ok’.
The word trustworthy means someone who can be trusted; someone that you can rely on to do something. It does not mean someone who trusts other people. The word for someone who trusts other people is trusting.
The word funny means that the person makes us laugh. It can easily be confused with fun – someone who we enjoy spending time with. Funny can also mean ‘behaving in a strange way’. The two different meanings are shown by the context: He’s really funny! (He makes me laugh). He’s a bit funny sometimes. (He is a little strange sometimes.)
The word moody means that the person is often in a bad mood or changes moods quickly. A moody person can be difficult to spend time with because you cannot predict how they will respond to you.
List of positive personality adjectives
Adventurous Someone who is adventurous enjoys adventure and takes risks.
Affectionate Someone who is affectionate shows their love for other people.
Ambitious A person who is ambitious wants to be successful in their career, studies, sport.
Brave A brave person wants to do difficult or challenging things and is not afraid.
Chatty Someone who is chatty enjoys talking to other people a lot.
Cheerful A cheerful person smiles a lot and is happy.
Confident Confident people feel sure about their own ability and present themselves well to other people.
Creative Someone who is creative is very good at designing or making things.
Determined A determined person makes a definite decision and does not give up.
Easy-going Someone who is easy-going is quite relaxed and accepts things as they are.
Personality adjectives, just like other adjectives, can be modified to make comparatives and superlatives, using ‘more’ and ‘the most’. So, we can say ‘He is more reliable than her’, or ‘She is the most adventurous person I have ever met!’
Enthusiastic Someone who is enthusiastic shows lots of interest in something and is very positive about it.
Frank Someone who is frank is honest and direct in what they say.
Friendly A friendly person always talks to other people and perhaps helps them too.
Funny Someone who is funny makes people laugh.
Generous A generous person is kind to other people, may give presents or lend money.
Hard-working Someone who is hard working always puts a lot of effort into their work.
Helpful A helpful person is always happy to help other people.
Honest An honest person tells the truth and never steals or cheats.
Imaginative An imaginative person has good ideas or is good at creating stories or artwork.
Intelligent Someone who is intelligent is good at learning. This person may think about things in a logical way.
Kind A kind person cares about other people and behaves positively towards them.
Loyal Someone who is loyal will always support his or her friends.
Meticulous A meticulous person pays careful attention to detail, probably has a tidy house and neat handwriting!
To use more than one adjective to describe someone, separate the adjectives with a comma or ‘and’. Use ‘but’ to separate contrasting adjectives (positive vs negative). For example, ‘She is a kind and generous friend’ or ‘She is very ambitious, but she can be stubborn sometimes’.
Modest Someone who is modest does not show off about his or her abilities or possessions.
Optimistic An optimistic person has a positive view of life and expects good things to happen.
Outgoing An outgoing person is very sociable.
Patient Someone who is patient does not get annoyed or frustrated easily and has time for other people.
Reliable A person who is reliable can always be trusted to do what is required.
Sensible A person who is sensible makes decisions based on reason/logic, does not take risks.
Sensitive A sensitive person is very aware of other people’s feelings, can be easily hurt emotionally
Sincere A sincere person is honest in their relationships with others and says what they think or feel.
Sociable Someone who is sociable loves chatting with other people.
You can modify a personality adjective by using an adverb such as: really, a little bit, very or extremely. For example, ‘Mary is really ambitious. I’d say she’s also an extremely determined person’.
Sympathetic Someone who is sympathetic understands other people’s problems very well.
Thoughtful Someone who is thoughtful always thinks of other people, remembers birthdays and sends a card!
Trustworthy A trustworthy person is someone you can rely on to be honest.
Positive personality adjectives: example sentences
She often travels alone, to remote places. She is brave and adventurous.
Michael is really good at putting his ideas into his artwork. He is an imaginative and creative
Dave got 100% in his exam, but he didn’t tell me! He is both intelligent and modest!
Sue seems very happy and relaxed. She is a cheerful, easy-going
John has always stood by me as a friend. He is veryloyal.
Rob would never tell a lie; in fact, he is very open. He is honestand frank.
They have six children, but they never get angry with them. They are both very patient.
Toni says she will work hard to become a manager by 25. She is super ambitious!
You have to be meticulous to be a proof-reader. You can’t miss any spelling mistakes!
Dave is one of the most reliable people I have ever met. He never lets me down!
My son is really helpful. He always tidies up and he often helps me wash the car.
Jane is a sincere She really meant the lovely things she said at our wedding.
List of negative personality adjectives
Arrogant An arrogant person thinks they are very important and behaves in a overly proud way.
Big-headed Someone who is big-headed talks a lot about how good they are, this person is too proud.
Bossy A bossy person is always telling other people what to do.
Childish Someone who is childish is silly or behaves like a child when they should behave like an adult.
Clumsy A clumsy person knocks things over a lot and is not careful.
Cruel Someone who is cruel is extremely unkind to other people or animals.
Defensive Someone who is defensive behaves in a way that suggests they believe other people are criticising them.
Dishonest A dishonest person tells lies or tricks other people.
Fussy A fussy person wants everything to be done in a particular way, they are picky/choosy.
Grumpy Someone who is grumpy is easily annoyed, in a bad mood.
Gullible It is easy to trick someone who is gullible. This person believes something that most people would not believe, being naive
Impolite An impolite person is rude.
Be careful when using present simple and present continuous tenses with personality adjectives. There is a big difference between saying: John is rude (constant personality trait) vs. John is being rude (just his behaviour now, not his usual personality trait). E.g. ‘John is being rude today, but usually he is very polite’.
Inconsiderate Someone who is inconsiderate does not think about other people, quite selfish.
Indecisive An indecisive person finds it difficult to make decisions.
Inflexible Someone who is inflexible is unwilling to change their opinion or the way they do things.
Jealous A jealous person feels angry or unhappy because they wish they had something that somebody else has.
Lazy A lazy person does not work hard.
Mean Someone who is mean is unkind.
Moody A moody person is bad-tempered or has frequent mood changes.
Narrow-minded A narrow-minded person is not willing to listen to the ideas or opinions of others.
Nasty A nasty person is very unkind.
Pessimistic Someone who is pessimistic has a negative view of the future and expects bad things to happen.
Pretentious Someone who tries to look or sound more important or clever than they are.
Rebellious Someone who is rebellious does not follow the rules.
Rude A rude person is not polite or does not respect other people.
Quick-tempered Someone who is quick-tempered becomes angry very easily.
Self-centred A person who is self-centred only thinks about himself or herself.
Selfish Selfish people think only about themselves and not about other people.
Stubborn Someone who is stubborn does not easily change their mind.
Sulky If someone is sulky they show their bad mood by not speaking.
Tactless A tactless person does not show sensitivity to others in what they say, not diplomatic.
Unpleasant An unpleasant person is not nice.
Unreliable An unreliable person cannot be trusted or relied upon.
Insecure An insecure person does not have confidence in themselves or their relationship with other people.
Vain Someone who is vain is too concerned about their appearance or abilities.
Negative personality adjectives: example sentences
Daisy has really changed since she was a little girl. I can’t say anything to her without her getting cross. She is quite moody and quick-tempered. Is she sulky? Yes, sometimes she stays in her room all day and doesn’t talk to any of the family.
I think my teacher is quite bossy! She is always telling everyone what to do.
Daniel is rather clumsy. He’s always dropping things in the kitchen or tripping over the chairs.
Peter says it’s not fair that Sally got more money than him for his birthday. I think he’s really childish – he is forty years old!
I think Julie is quite insecure. She can get defensive if we talk about her job. I think she is a bit too sensitive about it.
Do you think Joe is vain? Yes! He is always looking in the mirror to check his hair!
What a rebellious girl she is! She never follows the rules. She will get into trouble one day.
His dad is turning into a grumpy old man! He always seems to be moody these days.
I think Jane is a bit inconsiderate. She is always talking loudly on the phone in the office. She should think more about other people.
Joe can be gullibleat times. Yes, he believes everything you say without questioning it.
Philip is so narrow-minded! Why do you say that? Well, I’ve tried to persuade him to eat food from different countries, but he just won’t try it.
Sophie can be quite a jealous Sarah got a new car and Sophie looked really angry.
Peter is rather inflexible. I asked him if he minded changing our holiday plans for next summer and he said we had to go to Italy.
Are you indecisive? Well, it took me 20 minutes to decide what to wear tonight, so I guess I am!
Simon is so fussy. He will only drink tea with a tiny bit of milk and it has to be in his favourite mug!
Personality adjectives: Exercises
Which of the following adverbs cannot be used to modify the adjective selfish. a. quite b. extremely c. a lot d. really
Which adjective cannot be made negative with the prefix un-? a. honest b. friendly c. sociable d. kind
Which adjective has a similar meaning to selfish? a. stubborn b. moody c. impolite d. self-centred
Which word is spelled incorrectly? a. meticulous b. ambitous c. enthusiastic d. sympathetic
Which one of the following adjectives does not have a negative meaning? a. defensive b. stubborn c. determined d. arrogant
Joe never waits his turn. He is very ___patient. a. un- b. im- c. il-
He never thinks about her feelings. He is ___sensitive. a. in- b. non- c. dis-
It was very ___loyal of him to tell everyone Jane’s secret. a. dis- b. non- c. un-
Maggie wasn’t very kind to David when he had a hard time at work. In fact, she was quite ____ sympathetictowards him. a. in- b. un- c. im-
Mark doesn’t think much about the effect of his behaviour on other people. He was quite ____ considerate to his parents when he moved back home. a. in- b. mis- c. un-
Which sentence has a positive meaning? a. She is very optimistic about the future. b. He is quite stubborn. c. What a vain person! d. He is so narrow-minded.
Which sentence best describes the meaning of gullible? a. Someone who is kind to others. b. Someone who has a big influence on other people. c. Someone who easily believes things, even if they are not true. d. Someone who often tries to deceive other people.
Which one of the following personality adjectives does not have a hyphen (-)? a. easy-going b. out-going c. hard-working d. self-centred
Which one of the following adjectives can be preceded by the prefix ‘over-’? a. sincere b. sensible c. sensitive d. sociable
A person who is ambitious… a. wants to be successful in his or her career. b. is often nervous. c. is very brave. d. is very imaginative.
An easy-going person is…. a. tense b. difficult to talk to c. relaxed d. often angry
Someone who is indecisive… a. tries to influence other people to make decisions b. often makes the wrong decision c. has never made a decision d. finds it difficult to make decisions
Which person would be the best to go into business with? a. Someone who is selfish and dishonest b. Someone who is hard-working and reliable c. Someone who is arrogant and defensive
Which adjective means ‘paying attention to detail’? a. enthusiastic b. imaginative c. meticulous d. trustworthy
A loyal person is someone who… a. is very sociable b. always supports his or her friends c. is extremely honest d. is kind and helpful
Confused by similar words in English and Portuguese? You are not alone! Most ESL learners make mistakes with these “false friends” (or “false cognates”) in the two languages! Let’s take a look at some examples of false friends in English and Portuguese! Continue reading →